Echinocereus ferreirianus

Echinocereus ferreirianus dragon fruit tree

Echinocereus ferreirianus (also known as pitahaya, pitaya or dragon fruit) is a species of plant in the genus Echinocereus in the cactaceae family (counts from 110 to 161 species). The species epithet ferreirianus honors Enrique Ferreira, the Mexican consul from San Diego, California.


Echinocereus ferreirianus grows solitary to branched and then forms small groups. The spherical to cylindrical, green to gray-green shoots reach growth heights of up to 40 centimeters with diameters of 4 to 10 centimeters.

The shoots are almost completely covered by the thorns. The four to seven rotund, often curved central spines are red at first and later turn dark or gray. They are 1.5 to 10 centimeters long. The eight to 14 whitish radial spines are 0.8 to 4.5 centimeters long.

Plant habit:Succulent / cactus
Life cycle:Perennial
Sun requirements:Full sun to partial shade
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 9b -3.9 °C (25 °F) to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
Plant height:Up to 40 centimeters
Flower color:Various shades of pink with dark orange or red throats
Resistances: Drought tolerant
Conservation status:Least Concern (LC)

The funnel-shaped flowers are light to more or less deep purplish-pink and have a dark orange to red throat. They appear near the shoot tips, are 6 to 10 centimeters long, and reach 4 to 9.5 centimeters in diameter.

The pitahaya prefer a sunny spot with dry soil. Gritty-sandy soil should be used as the substrate. The plants can withstand temperatures as low as -2°C. The flowers of these cacti are funnel-shaped and arranged singly. Fruits are produced by the “shrubs”.

Distribution, systematics and endangerment

Echinocereus ferreirianus is found in the Gulf of California and the eastern part of central Baja California (Mexico, Northern America). The ranges of its two subspecies differ. Subsp. ferreirianus is found in the eastern region of central Baja California and adjacent islands, whereas subsp. lindsayi is found south of Catavia in central Baja.

The first description was made in 1953 by Howard Elliott Gates.

The following subspecies are distinguished:

  • Echinocereus ferreirianus subsp. ferreirianus: The nominate form has shoots 30 to 40 centimeters tall and almost always 4 central spines.
  • Echinocereus ferreirianus subsp. lindsayi (J.Meyrán) N.P.Taylor: First described as Echinocereus lindsay in 1975 by Jorge Meyrán. Nigel Paul Taylor placed the species as a subspecies to Echinocereus ferreirianus in 1997. The subspecies usually has shoots 13 centimeters tall and 4 to 7 central spines.

Echinocereus ferreirianus subsp. lindsayi is listed in Appendix I of the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. In the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the species is listed as Least Concern (LC), i.e., not endangered.

Echinocereus ferreirianus cactus photo


This cactus is a very spiny, and beautiful plant that grows on rocky mountains, low hills, slopes, and cliffs. It’s been found in shrub deserts, pumice slopes, lava fields, and stony-loamy granite. Illegal collecting, specifically of the subspecies subsp. lindsayi, is the only threat. Echinocereus ferreirianus has stems that are 30-40 cm tall and 8 cm in diameter, with four central spines almost always present.

It is globose to cylindrical and columnar, green or gray sometimes purplish and central spines (4-7), curved, red, dark and radial (8-14) banquecinas. Flowers near the apex of a pink to magenta color with orange gola and globose fruit. It is quite tall (30-40 cm.) and almost always 4 central spines, found in Baja California and island territories of the Gulf.


What is Echinocereus ferreirianus?
This is a species of cactus that is native to Mexico. The cactus is characterized by its cylindrical stems and its spines, which are arranged in clusters. The cactus typically blooms in the spring, and the flowers are pink or white.
Where is it found?
This plant is found in northern Mexico. It is a small, spiny cactus that grows in clumps. The flowers are pink or white, and the fruits are red.
How tall can this cactus grow?
The cactus can grow up to 40 cm.
Michael Gorelov
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